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The definitive 8-step customer journey mapping process

In business, as in life, it's the customer's journey that makes the company's destination worth all the trouble. No customer wants to jump through several different hoops to get to your product: they want it fast and they want it now.

Following certain customer journey mapping stages helps you improve your user's experience (UX) to create a product they love interacting with, ensures you stay ahead of key workflow tasks, and keeps stakeholders aligned. But a misaligned map can derail your plans—leading to dissatisfied users who don’t stick around long enough to convert or become loyal customers.

Last updated

11 Jun 2022
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This article walks you through the eight key stages of great customer journey mapping, and shows you how to adapt each to your unique business and product to optimize the customer experience from start to finish. 

Learn how customers interact with your product and website

Hotjar's Observe and Ask tools let you go ‘behind the scenes’ to understand your users’ product experiences and improve their customer journey.

An 8-step process for effective customer journey mapping

A customer journey map is a visualization of every point of interaction a user has with your company and product.

Mapping out the customer journey gives you insights into your buyers’ behavior to help you make changes that improve your website and the user flow between touchpoints. This helps you increase online sales and turn users into loyal customers and brand advocates.

Follow these eight proven steps to understand—and enhance—the customer experience.

Note: every business is distinct, so be sure to adapt these steps to your particular user and business needs. 

1. Define your purpose

The first step to creating a successful customer journey map is to define your product's vision or purpose. Without a clear purpose, your actions will be misguided and you won’t know what you want users to achieve during their journey on your website, product page, or web app. 

To define your purpose, consider your company’s mission statement and incorporate your specific user pain points as much as possible. 

Make your purpose specific to your company’s needs and goals—for example, the purpose of an ecommerce brand looking to help users navigate several different products and make multiple purchases will differ from that of a SaaS company selling subscriptions for one core product.

2. Make sure your team is aligned and roles are clear

Cross-functional collaboration is essential when mapping out your brand's or product’s user journey. Get insights from different teams within your organization to find out exactly how users engage with key touchpoints to derive a holistic sense of the user experience (UX), which will help you improve every aspect of the customer experience.

Lisa Schuck, marketing lead at Airship, emphasizes the importance of keeping “anybody that has a touchpoint with a customer” involved. She advises teams to “figure out how to align your external marketing and sales with your internal operations and service.”

Although sales, product, and marketing departments are often the key players in customer journey mapping, also involve your operations and design teams that are responsible for creating the user flow. 

If you have a SaaS company, for example, marketing creatives, sales teams, product owners and designers, and your customer experience department all need to participate in the process. Clearly define who’s responsible for different aspects of the map, and regularly check in to make sure your final map isn’t missing any important perspectives.

Pro tip: use Hotjar's Highlights feature to collect and organize key product experience (PX) insights and data on user behavior from teams across your organization to help you build your customer journey map. Then use Hotjar’s Slack integration to quickly share learnings with your relevant stakeholders to get buy-in and ensure everyone is aligned.

#Hotjar’s Slack integration Slack lets teams discuss insights in the moment, so they’re up to date with critical issues

Hotjar’s Slack integration Slack lets teams discuss insights in the moment, so they’re up to date with critical issues 

3. Create user personas

Once you’ve defined your purpose and involved all relevant stakeholders, it’s time to design your user personas. Use resources like UXPressia and HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool to help you design various product personas

Create a range of user personas to understand what each type of buyer needs to curate a journey that’s easy and enjoyable for every customer. This is an important early step in the customer journey mapping process—because if you don’t understand your users, you won’t be able to fully comprehend how they interact with your brand to better it.

Create user personas for all your product’s possible buyers—for example, to map out a B2B customer journey for a company in the hospitality business means developing personas for a range of different customers, from large chain hotel managers to small vacation rental owners. 

4. Understand your user goals

Once you’ve designed your user personas, it’s time to define their jobs to be done. What do your users hope to accomplish when they search for your product or service? What do they want to do when they click on your website? Address and answer these questions to build a deep understanding of your users’ goals and pain points to inform your customer journey.

In a SaaS customer journey, perhaps users are looking for helpful comparisons of product features on your website, or want to easily sign up for a trial account in the hopes that your product will solve their problems. But you won’t know until you ask

Once you have users or test users, get direct insights from them with Hotjar's Feedback tools and Surveys to ask buyers exactly what their goals are as they browse different pages of your website or interact with product features.

Since user goals are at the center of your customer journey map, define them early on—but keep speaking to your users throughout the entire process to make sure you’re up to date with their needs.

#Use Hotjar's Feedback tools to understand what your users want to do at key customer journey touchpoints—like when they land on your homepage
Use Hotjar's Feedback tools to understand what your users want to do at key customer journey touchpoints—like when they land on your homepage

5. Identify customer touchpoints

After you understand your users and what their goals are, it’s time to identify the ways they interact with your company and your product. 

"Touchpoints are the moments the customer interacts with your brand, be it through social media channels, your product, or customer support. The quality of these experiences affects the overall customer experience, which is why it’s important to be aware of them. Consider what happens before, during, and after a customer makes a purchase or uses your product."

Iga Gawronska
Product Designer at Hotjar

Key customer journey touchpoints for a website or product include your homepage, landing pages, product pages, CTA buttons, sign-up forms, social media accounts, and paid ads. 

Collaboration is key to identifying touchpoints throughout the entire customer journey. Include insights from different teams and stakeholders—your marketing and sales teams will have a strong understanding of the touchpoints involved pre-purchase, while the customer experience department can shed light on post-purchase touchpoints. 

Post-purchase touchpoints can help turn users into loyal customers and even advocates for your brand. 

In the words of Lisa Schuck, "When you create a raving fan, or a brand advocate, who goes out and tells the world how wonderful you are, you get social credibility and validity. It’s becoming more and more important to have advocates."

Pro tip: speak with your users regularly to get direct voice-of-the-customer (VoC) insights on what they love and what frustrates them on their journey. Place Hotjar Feedback widgets and Surveys at key website touchpoints like your homepage and landing pages to get valuable user insights on what you can improve. Use Hotjar’s survey templates to get inspiration for your survey questions. 

An example of an on-site Hotjar Survey

6. Map out the customer journey

Once your user and product research are complete and all roles are distributed, it’s time to map out the full customer journey.

First, map out an overarching customer journey by putting your key touchpoints in order and identifying how your various user personas interact with them. Then, home in on the details, looking at how customers engage with specific aspects of your website, product, or social media accounts. 

Breaking down the mapping process into smaller phases will ensure you don’t miss any key interactions. 

Here’s how an ecommerce brand could lay out general touchpoints, then narrow each down into more specific actions:

Pro tip: it’s helpful to think of the user journey in terms of different functions when mapping it out, like:

  • Connect: how are buyers connecting with your brand?

  • Attract: how are you convincing them to convert?

  • Serve: how are you serving customers when they want to purchase?

  • Retain: how are you promoting brand advocacy and customer retention?

7. Test the customer journey

Once you’ve mapped out the customer journey, it’s time to take it for a spin. You can’t understand how your users move through customer touchpoints unless you test out the user flow yourself. 

Start with an informational Google search, then visit your website, check out your social media pages, and simulate the purchase process. This will help you get a better sense of how users interact with each touchpoint and how easy it is to move between them. 

Be sure to try out the journey from the standpoint of every relevant user persona. For an enterprise software company, this could mean looking at how decision-makers move through the user flow vs. the employees who’ll use your software day to day. 

By walking through the customer journey yourself, you can identify issues and difficulties that users may have to address them proactively. 

Try out the user flow with test users to get a realistic perspective of the user experience. Be sure to use focus groups that represent every one of your user personas. 

8. Use continuous research to refine your map 

Continuously map out, analyze, and evaluate the customer journey by observing users and getting their feedback. Hotjar Heatmaps and Recordings help you understand how your users are experiencing the customer journey on your website: create heatmaps to see whether users are clicking on CTAs or key buttons, and watch recordings to find out how they navigate once they reach your homepage.

Then, use Google Analytics to get an overview of your website traffic and understand how customers from different channels move through the user journey. 

Finally, once you have these combined user insights, use them to make changes on your website and create a user journey that is more intuitive and enjoyable.

#Watch your users as they navigate on your website during their customer journey to see where they're getting stuck with Hotjar Session Recordings
Watch your users as they navigate on your website during their customer journey to see where they're getting stuck with Hotjar Session Recordings

Pitfalls to avoid during the customer journey mapping stages

Jamie Irwin, director & search marketing expert at Straight Up Search, says companies should avoid these three common mistakes when mapping out the customer journey:

  1. Don't map out the entire customer journey at once

  2. Don't forget about the ‘hidden journeys’

  3. Don't make assumptions about customer behavior

To sidestep these common pitfalls: 

  1. Start by mapping out the overall journey, and only drill down into more detail once you have a broader, higher-level overview of the customer journey

  2. Factor in every way that customers interact with your brand, even the ones you don’t have as much visibility on, like ‘dark social’ communications about your brand shared in private channels. Talk to your users to find out what they’ve heard about your brand outside of public channels, and use sticky share buttons to keep track of when your content’s shared through email or social media messengers.

  3. Take a data-informed approach: don’t assume you already know your users—test out your hypotheses with real users and qualitative and quantitative data. 

Follow proven steps to successfully map out the customer journey 

Take the time to understand your business goals and users, involve the right teams, and test frequently to consistently improve your customer journey and make the decisions that will help you map out an experience that will get you happy and loyal customers.

Learn how customers interact with your product and website

Hotjar's Observe and Ask tools let you go ‘behind the scenes’ to understand your users’ product experiences and improve their customer journey.

FAQs about customer journey mapping stages